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Upsets of Duke, Villanova put St. John’s in NIT picture

The Red Storm was 0-11 in the Big East before knocking off No. 1 Villanova.

PHILADELPHIA, PA - FEBRUARY 7: Shamorie Ponds #2

PHILADELPHIA, PA - FEBRUARY 7: Shamorie Ponds #2 of the St. John's Red Storm celebrates with Tariq Owens #11 after making a basket in the first half against the Villanova Wildcats at the Wells Fargo Center on February 7, 2018 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

What does St. John’s get for back-to-back upsets of Duke and Villanova? How about some early consideration for an NIT bid?

The Red Storm’s takedown of No. 4 Duke Saturday and then No. 1 Villanova on Wednesday suddenly reinvigorated a moribund season for the Big East team. Now there’s a chance at redemption.

Reggie Minton, a member of the eight-person selection committee for the NIT, was watching when St. John’s beat Villanova, 79-75, in Philadelphia.

“They deserved to win that game,’’ Minton said from Kansas City. “It didn’t come across that I turned on a game and I’m watching a fluke. I’m watching two teams battle.’’

So what does that mean for a team that is 12-13, 1-11 in the Big East?

“There’s no question they’re in a lot better shape than they were prior to these two games,’’ Minton said. “So now I think they have a fighting chance to get into consideration. I don’t know prior to this, in all honesty, where they are on everybody’s sheet.

“What we’re going to do is look at their full body of work and compare it to others and try to say who’s the most deserving. And we got eight guys in there trying to come up with those answers. We’ll discuss them, will shake them out, hopefully we’ll come up with the right answer.

“I know what (St. John’s) is doing because I’m interested in basketball. And I have to be interested in all the other teams that probably aren’t going to the other (NCAA) tournament so that we can make sensible decisions. I don’t want to speculate that these guys are going to make it because they’re going to have to compete against other folks for those slots.’’

The NIT field has 32 teams. Last season, 22 were picked at-large, with Georgia Tech gaining a berth at 17-15. An NIT bid goes to any regular-season champion that doesn’t win its conference tournament and doesn’t make the NCAA Tournament. Having at least a .500 record is not an NIT requirement, which was the case in former years, so St. John’s has a chance.

There was a time when the question would have been what does St. John’s have to do to not get an NIT bid, because metropolitan area teams generally were selected to help boost attendance. St. John’s has won a record five NITs.

Minton said there is no chance of favoritism because the NCAA controls the NIT. “There’s some other teams out there that fought their butts off to have a good season, and this would just be the absolute capper for them,’’ Minton said of making the NIT.

St. John’s has six games left before the Big East Tournament next month at Madison Square Garden. Of course, if the upstart Red Storm finds a way to win the Big East, a berth in the NIT won’t be necessary.

New York Sports